Misconduct in office still a headache for ICAC

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 12:00am

The hands of anti-graft fighters are tied when they investigate cases of alleged misconduct in public office because such misconduct is not a statutory offence, the ICAC commissioner said yesterday.

Raymond Wong Hung-chiu, head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, told the Legislative Council's security panel that the commission was still studying how to make the common law crime a statutory offence, although a landmark Court of Final Appeal ruling in 2002 made such a step less urgent.

The precedent-setting case of Shum Kwok-sher vs HKSAR gave guidelines on how misconduct cases should be pursued under common law, although the ICAC said putting a law in the statute books may make their work easier.

Mr Wong said an interdepartmental government working group, of which the ICAC was a member, had been set up to study the need to make misconduct in office a statutory offence. An option being studied was to put the offence under the auspices of the ICAC Ordinance to give the watchdog more power, including the authority to interview a suspect.

For instance, under the current rules, ICAC officers could not question former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung over the 'cargate' scandal last year.

The security panel was also told the ICAC had received 4,310 corruption reports last year, 1 per cent less than in 2002. Of the total, 57 per cent involved the private sector, 36 per cent the government and the remaining 7 per cent public bodies. Among the reports, 3,264 were pursuable, slightly more than the 3,245 that could be chased up in 2002.

The ICAC received a further 711 election-related reports last year, including 179 linked to bribery. The remaining 532 reports involved breaches of the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, such as the provision of refreshments at elections.